Quickie Reviews #7

Ex Machina

Man, the ending to this movie really bummed me out. But it didn’t bum me out because of some statement the movie was making, or because a character died, or any positive reason. It bummed me out because the ending was immensely unsatisfying, and honestly that’s the only thing that keeps this movie from being a 10/10.

But first, the good stuff. Pretty much everything about Ex Machina is amazing. The acting, the tension, the art direction, and the writing all build something that’s truly unique and couldn’t be more topical considering all of the robotics advancements we’re currently making as a society. Recent Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander especially stands out as the AI Ava, though Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are hardly slouches. Every scene between these three characters was expertly crafted to reveal something about someone, and it was usually something unexpected or revelatory. On the story side, while it’s obvious from the outset that something isn’t quite right, the film strings you along in just the right way to keep you guessing until the eventual reveal (which was even more dark that I could have guessed). However, there’s that ending. I certainly don’t want to spoil anything here, but I’ll just say that there’s a particular character choice that doesn’t make sense based on their previous actions. While the ending certainly leaves doubts as to the true nature of choice, it doesn’t do it in a satisfying way. But otherwise, Ex Machina is a superlative film that should be seen by anyone interested in sci fi or the future of our current course with artificial intelligence. 

Inside Out


When you start thinking about it, Inside Out is a complete bummer of a movie. Sure, it has fun characters and an interesting concept, but broken down, it’s basically about growing up and what that does to one’s imagination, memories, and priorities. The movie deals with those concepts in a fun way, but as with most Pixar movies, there’s a deeper level to the story.

The characters truly do shine in this one, particularly Bill Hader’s Fear and Richard Kind’s Bing Bong. Amy Poehler as the central Joy is a little underwhelming, in my opinion. While definitely likable and cute, I think her performance is overshadowed by some of the supporting characters. The progress through the mind leaves a little to be desired, too. I don’t want to be overly nitpicky, but there was nothing terribly surprising in concept or execution. Sure, it was all visually interesting and usually funny, but Pixar dealt with things like imagination, memories, and emotions in ways that seemed a little obvious. A child-like imagination land, the thought train, rows and rows of memories, there wasn’t much that felt “out of the box,” which is an area that Pixar typically shines. The exception was the abstract thought sequence, I thought that was handled very well. Again, I don’t mean to be overly critical with what is otherwise a great film, but Pixar sets the bar so high for themselves that it’s hard not to expect more. Inside Out is a great film, but doesn’t reach the highs of some of their previous offerings.


Flaked – Episode One


My original plan was to watch the entirety of season one and then write up a review, but after watching the first two episodes, I decided that I was more than ok skipping the next six. Flaked is not a good show. And look, I’m not saying it’s offensively bad like Two Broke Girls or something, it’s just highly uninteresting. On a typical network, they would have aired the first few episodes and cancelled it, but because Netflix is such a weird enigma, who knows? Maybe we’ll still see a season two.

I’m a huge Will Arnett fan. He’s usually charming and hilarious, and I always thought he deserved more recognition than he received. But his character on Flaked is neither charming nor hilarious. Chip (yes that’s actually the character’s name) is boring, vaguely creepy, and kind of an all around jerk. And Will Arnett helped write this thing. It’s a bummer. I completely respect him wanting to create his own content, and maybe show more of a dramatic side to his acting, but Flaked doesn’t work out in a favorable way. The show feels more like a love letter to Venice, CA than it does a television show, as the pilot has extended sequences of him just riding his bike around town while hipster music plays. The show feels modern with its one camera, minimalist style, but the writing feels ripped from a more traditional multi-cam sitcom. The characters and situations don’t feel real, they feel designed to create drama and comedy. There’s a scene in the pilot where Will Arnett’s character walks into a shop and an attractive younger woman stares openly at him, mouth agape, as if to say she’d be happy ripping his clothes off right then and there. Will Arnett may be an attractive dude with a perfect Batman voice, but come on. He’s not Chris Hemsworth in his Thor getup. There’s a vague slapstick, over the top feel to the writing and action that definitely isn’t matched by the subdued main characters.


Game of Thrones – Season One


My wife and I are re-watching Game of Thrones in anticipation of the new season premiering next month, so I’ll be including short reviews of all five seasons in these weekly reviews until then. I’ll try to keep these short reviews spoiler free, but know that the episode reviews I’m doing for season six will definitely be spoiler filled.


Season one of Game of Thrones served as a great introduction into the world of Westeros and beyond. Fans of Lord of the Rings and other high fantasy probably felt right at home with the unusual character names and complicated political issues, but newcomers to the genre likely took a few episodes before being able to keep up. As a book reader, I thought all of the casting was top notch (except for the somewhat boring portrayal of Jon Snow), and the world was clearly well designed. All of the places felt unique, yet still connected in the same universe. In what has since become common practice with the show, the penultimate episode was the most intense, with one of the biggest character deaths in television history. I heard many people swear off the show after that episode, but most have come crawling back. While more recent seasons have meandered about a bit, not sure of what to do with certain characters, season one was near perfect viewing.



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